My staff teases me a lot about certain phrases that I repeat over and over (and over). They should. I would tease me a lot, too. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t keep repeating those things, though. A lot of the repeat-isms are things I say to myself even more often than I say to them. One such gem? “How do you eat a brontosaurus?” All together now. “One bite at a time.” (They made me stop saying elephant.) Now why do is this on everlasting repeat?
First, it reminds me that all big feats are made up of little ones. It gives me perspective. No one runs a marathon in one 26.2 mile step. Or even 26 steps. It is thousands of steps – both in training and in the race itself. If I think about all 26.2 miles, it gets to be too much. But if I first start with creating a plan, that step I can do. Then each training run, I can do, tweak, modify, or even skip if I have to. Then if during the race, it starts getting overwhelming, I don’t have to worry about the next 16 miles, I just have to worry about the next 1 mile. And then the next and the next.
Second, it helps me get started. I may not know how to do the whole thing. Like, let’s say I want to start a law firm. I promise you that on Day 1, I did not know the stuff that I know now. I didn’t even know I was going to have to know some of this stuff! But I didn’t have to know all of it then, and I promise that I don’t know “it all” now. I just need to know the next few bites.
Third, it helps me delegate. It is much easier for me to have someone do a distinct task. Easier for them, easier for me. It helps them learn; it helps me supervise.
Fourth, it helps “unstick” me. This is related to the first two. I don’t need to know everything right now. I don’t need to do everything right now. I need to do the next thing. There are many times when I look at my to-do list, panic starts to rise, and I think the best thing I can do is go take a nap and avoid it all together. But then I take a big breath and remember I don’t have to eat the whole brontosaurus. I may not even need to even pick up a fork right now. I just need to identify and do the next step.
Still feeling left out? I’ll tell you the full metaphor that is sure to get groans from the staff and then action.
- That is a big brontosaurus. It’s going to take a lot to get it eaten. Do you know where to start? A toe is often accessible, so what’s your toe? (Why toe? Because it is funny and breaks the tension. It is small and accessible – unlike say a liver.)
- You don’t know? Well, how can we know? Who has or where can you find the requisite knowledge to determine where to start? (Often the first step is clarification. It is amazing how many times something is scary simply because you don’t know what it is you are supposed to be doing.)
- Ah, good choice, I also like the left, rear, third toe. Do you know how to prepare it? Do know what you need to begin? What’s your recipe? Do you have your shopping list? (Once you clarify, create a plan. It’s amazing how much a plan – even a simple one – can help drive the action.)
- Now just like following a recipe, do the first step first. Then the next and the next. Don’t put the pan in the oven before you put the ingredients in the pan, and don’t forget to turn on the oven. (If you jump all over or try to short-cut, you will end up with raw brontosaurus or a really crappy end product. Both will make you sick to your stomach. Plus, it will be inefficient so you will have spent a lot of time to get to something that no one wants.)
- Unveil that brontosaurus toe pie to oohs and ahs! (Don’t be afraid to celebrate successes along the way. You don’t have to wait for the full brontosaurus to be completed.)
- Repeat as needed.
Let me know if you need me to record that for you so you can replay it every day. Then you, too, can groan and be inspired just like me and the rest of the OGS crew!